WHEN Julie Scott started to feel unwell after returning from a dream holiday in Florida, she put the symptoms down to flu or tiredness.
Four weeks later, Julie, 48, who lives in Selby, was in hospital and doctors were battling to save her life.
Although she still doesn’t know exactly how it happened, Julie had contracted the blood disease vasculitis, a condition which, in her own words, was gradually closing down her vital organs.
She said: “I had just got back from a fantastic holiday in Florida and thought I had flu.
“I went to my doctors because I couldn’t shake it off and I ended up on antibiotics for four weeks.
“After four weeks the doctor sent me straight to hospital.”
Julie said the condition left her with no energy, making simple tasks such as climbing the stairs a ten minute job.
“I was rushed into intensive care at York Hospital,” she said.
“At that particular time they didn’t know what was wrong with me and my organs had started to shut down - my lungs, kidney and heart.”
Julie spent the next 22 weeks in hospital undergoing various blood treatments, including a full transfusion and chemotherapy, as doctors battled to save her organs.
She said: “Chemotherapy was a way of getting all the horrible substances out of my body, and with the blood transfusion they took virtually all the blood out of my body and replaced it with new stuff. Because I was so poorly in York I lost a lot of muscle strength in my legs and had to learn to walk again. In good time I hope to be up to full strength. My heart hasn’t quite prepared itself yet.
“I am on 22 tablets a day because there’s no cure.”
Julie was struck by vasculitis a year ago and has only recently returned to work full-time. As she recovers she also plans to take part in this year’s Cancer Research UK Race For Life on Knavesmire, although she admits she will be walking the course, rather than running, this time.
According to charity Vasculitis UK, the condition is an inflammation of the blood vessels and can affect any organs.
The skin, joints, kidney and lungs are often involved in some of the more common types of vasculitis. The overall prognosis varies depending on the organ involved and the severity of the disease.
Treatment also varies depending on the actual vasculitic disease present, the severity of the disease and on the organs involved.
Because the illness can strike in several different organs, the symptoms are many and varied.
They include breathlessness, dry cough or coughing up blood, hearing problems nose bleeds or sinus pain rashes, ulcers, and even necrosis (tissue death).
The eyes may be bloodshot, dry or gritty, there can be visual loss or other changes in vision and if the disease strikes the nervous system, sufferers can experience loss of sensation, weakness, unusual painful symptoms in the hands and feet and, rarely, paralysis or stroke.
In Julie’s case, doctors told her they could not be certain what caused it, saying it could have been anything from an insect bite to something from the air conditioning on the aeroplane.
According to Vasculitis UK, current medical thinking suggests that some people may have a genetic disposition to the illness, increasing their risk of contracting it, though it is not possible to pass that on to your children or inherit the illness.
The charity said: “Current research suggests that people probably develop vasculitis because of the complex interaction of their genetic inheritance, which may increase the risk of developing vasculitis, and exposure to chemicals in the environment or possibly some types of infection (including hepatitis B virus) which may trigger the vasculitis in someone who is susceptible.”
For more information on the condition, go to vasculitis.org.uk